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Detention for judges who miss deadlines?

Andrew LITTLE 

Justice Spokesperson

27 September  2013 MEDIA STATEMENT

Detention for judges who miss deadlines?

Labour will co-operate as much as possible over proposed court reforms but believes rigid deadlines for court judgments may end up causing injustices rather than helping litigants, its Justice spokesperson Andrew Little says.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has announced her intention to overhaul the court system, including imposing a three month deadline on judgments.

"Anything that improves the functioning of the courts and allows them to manage cases more efficiently and effectively is welcome.

"Some of this will involve changes to technical rules about the way courts run and some will be technology issues.

"Clarifying the rules about judges' conflicts of interest is also appropriate, given public expectations in this area are greater today than they were even a few years ago.

"Labour's willingness to co-operate, however, won't extend to imposing arbitrary deadlines on court judgments.

"For one thing, hearings, especially in civil cases, are taking longer, but there is a reason for that. Not only do they now tend to be more complex, lawyers also argue every point backed up by endless authorities - all of which makes the judge's task harder.

"It will be useful to set some reasonable expectations about delivery of judgments but legislating hard deadlines raises the obvious question of what happens if they're breached. Will the offending judge be given a detention or a hundred lines?

"The problem is that only the judge who has conducted the trial or heard the appeal can write the decision.

“So, while it's important to set good guidelines there's no point in having a level of rigidity that doesn't take account of the time needed for difficult cases and where any sanctions are likely to be meaningless.

“I’m sure New Zealanders would prefer a decision that's right rather than one that's hasty.”


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